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Trent chosen to lead Bertie Commissioners

WINDSOR – In addition to welcoming junior teen student members of the county’s Board of Commissioners, the duly elected adult members also were sworn in to begin their four-year terms here Monday evening.

However, the overall mood took an unexpected turn later in the meeting.

Prior to that, Sixth Judicial District Chief Superior Court Judge Cy Grant administered the oath of office to the three members selected by the voters in November to represent the county’s interests.

By taking them in alphabetical order, newly elected member, former sheriff and first-time Commissioner Greg Atkins, who will represent District II (Midway/Merry Hill community), was first to receive the oath. Family members on hand for his swearing-in included his wife, Carol, and son, Charles.

District-IV representative Ernestine Bazemore and Tammy Lee, who represents District III, next received the oath. Both were re-elected to second terms on the Board last month.

Bazemore introduced four generations of her family for her swearing-in to hold her family Bible. They included her father, Tim, Sr.; brother, Tim, Jr., and nephew, Tim, III – who cradled his son, Tim IV, in his arms.

Lee was joined in the oath by her husband, Vernon.

Prior to the election of Board chairman and vice-chair overseen by Bertie County Manager Scott Sauer, two citizens: Rev. Dr. Gary Cordon, and James Pugh, addressed the Commissioners with public comments.

“Let everybody be somebody,” said Pugh. “We need to see this county grow. You can’t grow doing things underhanded, you’ve got to come out in the open, because the good Lord is looking at you.”

“I want to thank you for all that you’re doing, and I appreciate what you’re doing for the citizens of Bertie County,” said Cordon. “I enjoy the fact you all accept our differences. You’re doing a great job, and as for the things you may not be doing well, we want to believe you’re going to fix it because we elected you to do that and we hope you’re going to take everything to heart, and you’re going to do greater than you did last year.”

Before surrendering the gavel, Bazemore – Board chair for the past 12 months – told her fellow Commissioners, and the audience, that she desired to serve a second year in the same capacity.

“We have a lot going on in the county,” she noted. “And I would love to see it through.”

2018 vice-chairman and District I Commissioner Ron Wesson placed Bazemore’s name in nomination, which she seconded.

Atkins then nominated Commissioner John Trent to the post the latter held both in 2016 and 2017, with a second by Lee.

The nominations closed, Bazemore received votes from Wesson and herself; while Trent’s votes came from himself, Atkins, and Lee.

Bazemore nominated Wesson for a second term as vice-chair, but he declined. Lee then nominated Atkins, and he was approved unanimously.

Following a five-minute break, the Commissioners made brief remarks.

Lee thanked the voters for returning her to office for a second term.

“I’ve learned a lot over the last four years,” Lee stated. “I’ve made contacts throughout the state that I can call on for advice or help. I’ve worked to move Bertie forward and kept all the citizens at the forefront of every decision; and I look forward to continuing to serve and if there’s anything I can do, please do not hesitate to call on me; and thank you.”

Wesson questioned the Democratic Party loyalty of some of his fellow Board members, and expressed embarrassment over some of their actions in conducting county business and the political process.

“There’s always – my term – collusion; and information is not shared freely,” he accused. “We’ve got to better than that, Bertie County; it’s time we wake up.”

Bazemore’s remarks were more pointed, calling the preceding actions (appointments of the board’s chair and vice-chair), “racial injustice”.

“I have only missed one (Commissioner’s) meeting out of four years,” she remarked. “And, excuse me, but, I’ve got to call it like it is: it looks to me like the blacks get one year (chairmanship) and the whites get as many as they want. We need to wake up.”

Atkins thanked the voters for their support.

“This is not my seat (on the Board), it’s your seat,” he acknowledged. “I’m new as a Commissioner, but not new as a public servant. My job is to serve, and I give you my word that I’ll do the very best that I can.”

Trent tried to strike a conciliatory tone with his remarks.

“Let me tell you, we work for the people,” he said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a time we ever voted against each other to move this county forward. We’re consistently doing different and new things.”

Having had their say, the Board members moved on to the regular agenda for the remainder of the evening.